What if Miami Won the Derrick Rose Lottery?

Derrick Rose Heat

Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes. 

Miami operates with a firm “best player available” rule. Michael Beasley may be a better fit as a forward next to Dwyane Wade, but through the draft process it becomes clear that Memphis point guard Derrick Rose is the better prospect. So when their No. 1 pick comes up in the 2008 NBA Draft, they don’t hesitate to take Rose and figure out the fit a bit later.

That hastiness doesn’t do Rose or the Heat any favors. He looks good when given the chance to attack the rim as he’d like, but with Wade monopolizing the ball those opportunities are few and far between. The tension is so thick that Rose’s hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, eventually calls Miami to make an offer for Rose. The Heat refuse, and Chicago winds up very thankful that they did. After all, had they acquired Rose they never would have entered the 2009 NBA Draft in position to draft a far better point guard, but coach Vinny Del Negro’s frustrating year and Chicago’s roster without scorers gives them the league’s seventh worst record and a desperate need for playmaking. So they grab Davidson’s Stephen Curry and never look back.

Year 2 of the Rose era is more of the same, and by season’s end the team becomes determined to deal him if their lofty free agency goals are met. So to clear the cap space necessary to sign Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwyane Wade, they trade Rose to Minnesota for a future draft pick.

Minnesota is thrilled with the return on their meager investment. Rose turns his career around playing next to Kevin Love and even competes for an MVP award in Minnesota. It is eventually won by James, who goes on to win a total of five straight, but the Rose-Love combination finally gives the Timberwolves some hope in the post-Kevin Garnett era.

As his five MVPs suggest, LeBron wins quite a bit in Miami. They win the Eastern Conference in his first season with the team and the championship in his next two. But eventually, the Curry-Tom Thibodeau combination overcomes the old and worn down Heat in 2014. They lose to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, but in asserting themselves as the new conference leaders they essentially force LeBron’s hand in leaving Miami for Cleveland.

James, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins on one side, Curry, Jimmy Butler and Thibodeau on the other. No one can imagine a more intriguing Eastern Conference rivalry, especially with the winner likely to take on Rose and Love’s Timberwolves in the NBA Finals.

 

What if Jay Williams Never Got Hurt?

Jay Williams Bulls

Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes.

Young athletes do stupid things. It’s a given. Jay Williams is just lucky that the Bulls caught wind of his plans to buy a motorcycle, because once they did they strongly urged him not to do so and reminded him of the clause in his contract reminding him that he isn’t allowed to do so. Williams relents, and the Bulls breathe a sigh of relief. Their young point guard is safe from at least that sort of disastrous off-court injury.

And he develops into a very nice young player. Williams averages 17 points per game as a sophomore and that number hangs out around 20 for the next few years. He even makes an All Star team in 2006 as the Bulls return to playoff form. But Williams never quite becomes the superstar Chicago expected.

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A point guard who does become a superstar, though, is Derrick Rose. The New Jersey Nets luck into him with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft through a gift from the lottery gods: they jumped all the way up from the No. 8 slot to nab the Memphis product No. 1 overall. They immediately start gearing their team towards Rose, trading the veteran Vince Carter and taking Terrance Williams and Paul George in the next two drafts to surround him with the proper wings.

Of course, neither of them stick around for very long. When Carmelo Anthony hits the trade market during the 2010-11 season, the Nets offer both along with a cavalcade of other assets to nab him. Anthony is at first resistant, but the idea of playing with Rose warms him up to waiting for the move to Brooklyn. With a pairing of Rose and Anthony, the Nets feel as though they can compete with anyone in the East, even LeBron James and the Heat.

Of course they don’t get the chance. They lose in back-to-back second rounds to the Tom Thibodeau-Jay Williams pairing in Chicago. It’s hardly a satisfying consolation, as Chicago winds up losing to Miami just as consistently, but hey, there’s no shame in making the Eastern Conference Finals and losing to a better team. At least the Nuggets enjoy their part of the deal. Paul George is looking like the best young Nugget since David Thompson.

What the Derrick Rose Trade Means for the Knicks

Derrick Rose Knicks 1

Let’s pretend for a moment that Derrick Rose never won an MVP.

Let’s pretend that he isn’t a former All Star, that he’s not one of the biggest names in basketball, that this trade was made strictly on basketball terms.

The New York Knicks had arguably the worst point guard play in basketball last season, so they added a point guard who averaged 18 points and five assists on totally respectable .444/.344/.789 shooting splits from February through April of last season. The only player of note they gave up was Robin Lopez, a questionable long-term fit anyway as Kristaps Porzingis is likely a center and Carmelo Anthony will probably need to transition to power forward as his athleticism starts to go. On those terms alone, this was an excellent short-term trade. The inflection point comes in July.

There are two ways that the Knicks can treat this deal. If Jeff Hornacek has his way, the Knicks will look for younger wings to flank Rose on the free agent market. That means names like Kent Bazemore, Harrison Barnes and Evan Fournier. Any additions will be based on the Kristaps Porzingis timeline, they’ll be younger and they’ll shoot three’s, and they absolutely will not need to fit the triangle. Rose will be a short-term gamble and nothing more.

Considering Hornacek’s offensive style, that’s a roster that makes a lot of sense. A team with Rose at the point and Anthony at power forward would play fast and shoot a ton of three’s. It would be highly pick-and-roll based, and the defense would rely on Porzingis growing into a high-end rim protector (possible, though likely a stretch in Year 2). It has the pure fire power to be one of the better offenses in basketball, it has the talent to make a decent playoff run right away, but it also has the roster flexibility to easily be re-tooled for Porzingis in a year or two (especially since a Knicks team making real playoff runs instantly becomes a highly desirable free agent destination).

This is the sensible path. It leans into the direction modern basketball is heading. And then there’s the crazy old man Phil Jackson route.

This involves chasing a big-name center, eschewing shooting and just hoping talent wins out. This treats name value as something of importance in a market that sells games out anyway. This means forcing square pegs into triangular holes.

That’s the biggie. Derrick Rose cannot play in the triangle. He is the absolute worst point guard for that system. Triangle point guards are quick decision makers who shoot three’s and move off of the ball. Rose does none of these.

None of the available centers (except for Pau Gasol, who was drafted before Porzingis’ great grandparents were born) fit the triangle either. Hassan Whiteside has 36 assists in his entire career. He’s not going to be able to make the quick read-and-react high post passes a triangle center has to make. Dwight Howard just wants to post people up so he can convince himself he’s still a relevant offensive player.

Signing someone like Whiteside or Howard, and even to a lesser extent Gasol or Joakim Noah, is exactly the sort of mistake the old Knicks used to make. Then again, the old Knicks never would have used the No. 4 pick on someone like Porzingis. So all bets are off. We’ll know by mid-July which path New York is taking, and for their own sakes, let’s hope it’s the first.

Derrick Rose Looks Like an Evil Chef

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I’ve felt this way since Derrick Rose was a rookie, and though I’ve made the comment in offhanded ways I’ve never fully addressed it because when I do in my personal life people tend to disagree. But I need to know the public’s opinion here and now: does Derrick Rose look like an evil chef?

It obviously starts with the mustache. It’s so thin and wispy. Let’s compare it to to villain from Ratatouille:

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The main difference is that little uptick in the center, but otherwise I’d say they’re a perfect match in terms of thickness. Rose’s doesn’t go down quite as far, but they’re very close. Now let’s throw Rose in a full chef outfit, courtesy of an NBA 2k11 commercial:

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Just off screen is pile of dead Dalmatians whose fur has recently been used to make a coat. So am I crazy or does Derrick Rose look like an evil chef?

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/2/16: Monroe to Chicago

Monroe Bulls

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Greg Monroe Week. 

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Milwaukee Bucks Receive:                                                  Chicago Bulls Receive:

Derrick Rose                                                                            Greg Monroe

 

Why Chicago would make this trade: With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah leaving, the Bulls have to rebuild most of their front court front scratch. Monroe could serve the role they intended for Gasol, but over the longer term. Taj Gibson could protect him defensively, and what’s more, this deal would go a long way in helping the Bulls clear max cap space this summer. Mike Conley seems like an ideal fit next to Jimmy Butler, and those two paired with Monroe, Gibson, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and this season’s lottery pick could be a contending lineup.

Why Milwaukee would make this trade: It’s a one-year flier on Rose. There’s absolutely no harm in taking a look at him and seeing if a new environment helps bring him back to MVP form. There’s no long-term cost to doing so since Monroe will likely leave next summer anyway. So why not take a shot?

What if Derrick Rose Stayed Healthy?

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Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes. 

It’s the end of a Game 1 blowout in Chicago’s first round series against Philadelphia. Coach Tom Thibodeau wants to leave star point guard Derrick Rose in the game to send a message to the Sixers. But Rose, already tired from a long game, thinks better of it and asks to be taken out. The ending is as innocuous as the game itself. The No. 1 seeded Bulls take the first game of what eventually turns into a four-game sweep. They head into Round 2 healthy, rested and ready to compete for a championship.

Unfortunately, they have an all-too-familiar roadblock in LeBron James’ Miami Heat. The teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. And Miami wins for the second straight year. And a third. And a fourth. It becomes a running joke come playoff time. Derrick Rose and the Bulls swear “this is our year,” and proceed to get beaten senseless by James and the Heat.

Still, making the Eastern Conference Finals every year is an admirable fate to some. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, for example, would love to just be assured a playoff spot every year. But as he approaches free agency in the summer of 2014, it has become painfully obvious that he’ll have to leave New York if he ever wants to sniff a championship.

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The Bulls immediately jump to the top of his list. None of his other suitors have a former MVP in the prime of his career like Rose. So when the time comes to make a decision, few are surprised when Anthony announces he’ll be joining Rose in Chicago. The news has quite a ripple effect. Close friend LeBron James admits to Anthony behind closed doors that he was seriously considering a return to Cleveland. But with Carmelo in Chicago, the young Cavaliers just don’t have enough talent to win him another championship. So he signs a one-year deal to remain with Miami, setting the stage for a fifth consecutive playoff duel between the two teams.

The addition of Anthony and rise of young star Jimmy Butler gives Chicago home-court advantage, and that becomes critical as the two teams brutalize each other for six incredibly hard fought games. Ultimately it’s Butler’s defense on James and the timely shotmaking of Rose and Anthony that put the Bulls over the top. With James set to hit free agency again and the young Cavs surprising the league by making the playoffs, many wonder if the loss will end LeBron’s tenure in Miami. Of course, even if Miami had snuck past Chicago they were never a match for the 67-win Warriors.

Golden State’s magical season is built on patience. In the offseason they refused to trade star shooting guard Klay Thompson to Minnesota for Kevin Love knowing that no team would be able to offer the Timberwolves a better deal. And it turns out to be true. Though both Boston and Cleveland make overtures Love refuses to sign a contract extension with anyone but the Warriors. The rise of Draymond Green as a tradable asset finally pushes Minnesota into making a deal. Green, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush, David Lee and draft picks to Minnesota. Love and Kevin Martin to the Warriors.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry heads down the court after making a three point shot during the second half of the Golden State Warriors 106-101 win over the Boston Celtics in an NBA basketball game in Boston, Sunday, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

The deal makes Golden State’s offense unstoppable. Down the stretch, they even use a so-called “death lineup” with Love at center surrounded by Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Thompson and Martin. The shooting is impossible to guard, and the Warriors trounce the Western Conference en route to the NBA Finals.

Chicago represents their toughest test to date. Butler guards Curry better than just about anyone could imagine and the tandem of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson make life difficult for Love. But the Warriors are just too deep. Eventually their shooting makes it too hard for the Bulls to play both of their big men at once, and lineups with Anthony at power forward struggle mightily on defense. Despite falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Warriors sweep the next three and win the NBA Finals in six games.

James does end up returning to Cleveland that summer. In fact, he coerces the Cavs into trading young stud Andrew Wiggins to the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins to give him another veteran star to play with. But the Bulls and Warriors remain the favorites going into the 2015-16 season. Why bet against the incumbents?

Microwaved Takes 3/17

Buddy H

Full disclosure, I couldn’t think of a topic I wanted to write 1,300 words about today. Writing is hard. So instead, I’m going to write 100-200 words on the five things I thought about turning into real columns. We’re calling them microwaved takes, because they’re hot takes but quicker. And you get more of them. And they’ll probably give you cancer. Don’t judge me. You post something every day for seven weeks and tell me you’re still loaded with fresh ideas.

Take 1: Why the F*uck isn’t Buddy Hield Going No. 3 in the Draft?

What am I missing with Buddy Hield? Everyone wants shooters, Buddy takes more per game than Klay Thompson and makes a higher percentage than Stephen Curry. Even if that were literally the only thing he could do, that should be enough to go third. If you knew for sure you were getting a decade of Kyle Korver, you’d take that dude third.

But that’s not the only thing he does! He makes almost 56% of his shots at the rim! He has a higher career rebounding rate than Dwyane Wade! He’s a good defender who’s only going to get better when he doesn’t have to score 30 points every night! HE KNOWS HOW TO DRIBBLE!

Don’t you idiots remember what happened last time you said a prospect was too old and too short? Portland got Damian Lillard. And then they got ANOTHER Damian Lillard in C.J. McCollum. Don’t f*ck this up guys, just take the best player.

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Take 2: Derrick Rose is Good Again and I Can’t Wait to See how Chicago Screws This One Up

Derrick Rose is averaging essentially 19/5/4 on 47% from the field and 34% from three since the new year began. I mean, it’s not MVP Derrick Rose, but it’s good! And the sample size is relevant! Kemba Walker got serious All Star consideration for stats only slightly better than that. At the very least that’s a good starting point guard. So how are the Bulls gonna screw this one up?

Are they going to trade him for peanuts and watch him become a star again? Are they going to force him into another year of uncomfortable bonding with Jimmy Butler? Can they do BOTH? I have no idea how this plays out other than the Bulls looking foolish.

Take 3: I’m Gonna Look Like a Genius When Portland Makes the Second Round

Here’s how it’s gonna go down:

Step 1: Grizzlies lose a lot of games. Not too hard since their three best players right now are Lance Stephenson, Samaki Walker and that animated girl with the pink hair from the old E-Surance commercials. .

Step 2: Blazers win a lot of games, sneak into No. 5 seed. It’s doable. The schedule is manageable and they have more home games than road.

Step 3: Beat Clippers. Not as tough as you’d think. There is a glorious Clippers explosion coming at some point in the next two months. Why not in Round 1? Who wants to chase C.J. around for 40 minutes? Why can’t Meyers Leonard drag DeAndre away from the hoop on defense?

I’m calling it now. Blazers over Clippers in six in the first round.

Take 4: I Told You Jae Crowder Was the Best Celtic! I Told You! 

The Celtics are 0-3 without Jae Crowder. They just gave up 130 points to the Thunder. The Celtics don’t know how to play defense without Crowder. It takes a special kind of wing to cover up for Kelly Olynyk.

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Take 5: While We’re Talking About the Celtics, Tony Bennett is the Next Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens built a contender at a non-basketball power. Tony Bennett built a contender at a non-basketball power. Brad Stevens did so with limited NBA talent. Tony Bennett did so with limited NBA talent. Brad Stevens made the NCAA Championship Game two years in a row. Tony Bennett had top-five teams three years in a row.

There are similarities here. Stevens’ best trait as a coach is his ability to develop players. Bennett does so about as well as anyone at the college level, winning without any lottery picks on his roster. He takes what he has and turns it into a contending basketball team. He’s going to be a great NBA coach one day.